3 Tips for Coaching an All-Star Sales Team

Whether your role is that of sales professional or manager, the entire team is all on the hook to deliver on your company’s sales goals. As an individual contributor, your role is to build a pipeline, gain confidence and trust of your accounts and close enough deals to make quota.

Management must drive overall success by overcoming obstacles, optimizing processes and ensuring the right data is made available to validate your strategy, provide visibility into progress and identify future process improvement. Each of these objectives can be accomplished when coaching an all-star sales team.

Taking a closer look at the role of management, there are many challenges that must be overcome. To start, there is no one “right” way to achieve success. Every team is different, each market has its own nuances, and over time things change which makes the importance of managing, coaching and mentoring greater than ever.

Managing vs. Coaching vs. Mentoring

While each of these terms might be used interchangeably, they comprise different tasks, skill sets and perspectives. Here is a summary:

  • A Manager has a set of tasks that must be completed as part of running an organization; these tasks might include interviewing job candidates, controlling budgets, negotiating salaries and preparing activity reports for senior management. You typically have only one manager; “dotted” lines may exist in matrixed organizations, but one person will still be the primary manager.
  • A Coach helps employees increase capability and effectiveness within the organization. This can take the form of helping to improve interpersonal skills, learn a technical proficiency or to navigate through a performance issue, perhaps with the introduction of new skills or insights. You might not have a coach, or you might have 1,2 or more, depending upon your organization.
  • A Mentor has a larger perspective on your career and might not even work for the same company. This type of person will help you look out for what might be right for your career, which might or might not include your continuing to work in your current position.

The focus of this article is on being a coach, and what can be done when coaching an all-star sales team.

Who Can Be a Coach?

This is an important concept, especially for managers that feel they must “do it all”. Managers do not need to also be coaches. Nearly anyone can be a coach – but good ones will likely be more senior, having the experience to draw upon to provide insights. Those that have worked at several different organizations can bring an “outside-in” perspective. This can be a valuable insight, especially when encountering new challenges or obstacles.

Coaches can come from other departments outside of sales. Sales professionals tasked with order entry and contract negotiations will be well served to have a coach in the finance department to help navigate complex transactions. In addition, coaches from the customer support team can be invaluable in setting appropriate expectations with new prospective customers on what timeframes to expect when getting new services established.

As you might expect, few companies have the time or resources to establish formal coaching programs. Typical reasons why these programs don’t exist are that sales management doesn’t think they add value, there isn’t enough time, or that they don’t know how.

Today, there is another challenge to coaching an all-star sales team, which has been brought on by the remote working revolution.

The Virtual Office

Perhaps one of the most significant changes in today’s workforce – which has clearly impacted employee coaching – is the rise of the remote or virtual worker. In the last five years, this transformation has been significant. This article, The Remote Worker Revolution, highlights three data points showing how significant this change has become:

  • 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency
  • 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part-time. Two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office)
  • Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time

With the virtual office, the strategy of management by wandering around (MBWA) doesn’t work anymore. Geographically dispersed sales teams create new burdens on sales management and coaching. What is needed is the modern equivalent of MBWA, which I’ll coin as the term “management by digital reporting” or MBDR.

The Virtual Manager

Operating in the digital or virtual world means that sales tactics are now performed with digital tools. This might include email, texts or even social media messaging for communications. Video conference calls are now starting to become more common, especially for account management, needs assessment and customer support tasks.

However, in the end, relationships must still be established to build trust and close the sale. Whether this is a simple transaction or is a complex sale, the process has remained consistent. It is just the tools that have changed.

In the same way, sales management tools must also change. Managers need a way to virtually “wander about” and see what their team is working on. How was time spent in the last week? What sort of traveling has been done, and did that result in a sale?

Digital reports generated by programs such as Prodoscore on sales team accomplishments are needed, providing visibility to the current day, week or month. With this visibility, manager tasks can be completed (ex: report preparation, quota tracking, expense approval, etc.) and coaching can be done to help improve performance.

3 Digital Coaching Tips for Coaching an All-Star Sales Team

The desire to be a coach is not something that is instructed, per se. It is more likely to occur from either an altruistic desire to give back and help the organization be more efficient, or from more of a self-centered desire to avoid future headaches and extra work. These factors apply in both the “real” and “virtual” worlds. It is the execution of the objective that changes. Here are three suggestions on how to digitally execute a better coaching strategy to those involved in this role.

  1. Establish a regular cadence to share reports on sales team performance, not only within the sales department but across other functional areas. Time would be well spent on a regular, live call to review the reports and seek feedback for improvement. By sharing this information regularly, coaches have a better perspective on what activities are being done by the sales team, so can then be in a better position to coach. Note this requires trust between departments such that information is used wisely, communicated in such a way as to not play the “blame game.”
  2. Embrace the practice of team coaching, such as across the sales or marketing team. This can be an effective strategy to avoid placing too much reliance on star performers by devoting time and effort into coaching higher team performance. If sales performance is seen and measured more as a team effort, then it won’t be as necessary to rely on one specific participant to “save the day” every month, quarter or year. Learn more in this article: How Team Coaching Can be a Great Strategy to Reduce Sales Turnover.
  3. Establish shared metrics that can be readily measured on performance and how time was spent during the day doing sales activities; sharing these scores across the team can then help drive cohesiveness and improve overall team performance. Programs such as those offered by Prodoscore can be a great way to get started quickly, and easily.

The best results from each of these suggestions are to make the commitment to stick to the program and continue to share performance, results and opportunities for improvement. With the accelerated rate of change now on the purchase process – thereby the sales process – change is constant, so too must be the coaching and management of the team to maintain exceptional results.

How will visibility impact your business?